We’ve teamed up with Adorama to bring you a new series of photography tutorials called “Master Your Craft” to be featured on their YouTube Channel. Subscribe to see more of our videos on their channel throughout the next couple of months that will cover photography, lighting, posing, and editing education to help you hone your skills and master your craft.
In this episode, the second of a two-part series, we’re going to break down how we edited the final image in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. You can download the exercise files here to edit the image with me as I show you some simple compositing techniques to quickly create an epic final image! If you missed the previous episode you can check it out here.
Video Tutorial for How to Incorporate Motion into Flash Photography Part II
We’re going to take these six frames in Lightroom, clean them up some, and then bring them all into Photoshop using layers and masks to quickly create an incredible looking composite. To do this, we’re going to work in a simple 8-Step Framework.
Step 1. Process Inside Lightroom (Dial In Your Look)
Once we’ve selected our images for the composite, we’re going to dial in our settings to get the look we’re going for. Since we’re editing around the skin tones, we’ll choose the image that best displays this as our starting point. From there we’ll start the editing process. You can do this however you like, via preset or manually and just set the images to look the way you want.
I’m personally going to use the “Flash” preset from the Visual Flow Library but it’s totally fine if you don’t use them as I’ll walk through all the settings in the video so you can manually copy them if you’re so inclined. From here i’m just going to adjust the color temperature a little bit to make it just slightly cooler and then add a radial filter to burn the image a little to place the focus on my subjects.
If you apply the burn in a subtle way in a manner in which the subjects were lit, it’ll look quite natural and won’t stand out.
Step 2. Sync Your Settings
Now that you’ve dialed in the settings and made any adjustments you want, now we need to ensure all of the images for your composite have the same settings applied. That means it’s time to sync your settings in Lightroom.
Press Ctrl/Cmd + A to select all of the images in your set with the image you’ve dialed in clicked on as the “Most Selected” and then press Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + S to open the Synchronize Settings window. From here be sure to select “Check All” and press Synchronize to copy the settings from your main image to the rest of the set.
Step 3. Edit As Layers In Photoshop
Now that our images are all synced up, we’re once again going to select all in our set, and then right click on them, go to “Edit In -> Open As Layers in Photoshop.” This is where depending on the resolution of the files, it may take a moment to load these up. Once this is done, we’re ready to move onto step 4.
Step 4. Auto-Align Layers
Even when on a tripod there can be subtle shifts in your images. So we’re going to use PS to align the images to get them all as close as possible. So once your images are loaded into Photoshop, we’re going to select all the layers.
From here we’ll select “Edit -> Auto-Align Layers” and then click okay on the following window.
Once this is done, it’ll make our composite super simple as we’ll just have to paint in or out the features of each image that we want, without any complicated adjustments having to be done manually.
Step 5. Find The Ideal Layer
Our next step is to find the layer that contains the file that is your “main image” that has the best “emotion” for your subjects. This is your hero layer that you’ll form your composite around. Once you’ve found this layer, move it to the top (if it’s not already) or your layers, and then drag your plate-shot right below it.
Step 6. Remove The Light Stands
Why are we placing our plate shot right below the hero shot? Well it’s so we can easily and quickly remove the light stands from our image. To do this we’re going to add a mask and then paint out what we don’t’ want in the frame.
Because we’ve aligned all our images and shot this on a tripod, removing and adding elements is super easy by just painting in and out elements via the layer masks. Once we’ve painted out those elements from our hero shot, let’s have a look at the layer mask;
From here, we’ll want to make sure the areas that should be blacked out are completely blacked out, so viewing this way will help you be sure your mask is clean and proper.
Step 7. Move The Motion Layers Up
Now that we’ve set our baseline up, we’re going to start grabbing the motion layers that have elements that we like, and moving them to the very top of the list. From here what we’re going to do is just like above, but we’re going to paint in individual elements we like in the frame. So first add a new layer and hold ALT/Option to invert the mask so it’s filled with black.
Using a low flow brush, we’ll now start repeating step 7 by moving additional layers to the top, adding a black layer, and painting in elements from each that we want to fill the frame with a white brush. Remember, if you paint in a little too much or something you don’t want, you can easily swap your brush from white to black (by hitting X) and then hiding that portion away again.
Step 8. Save It Back To Lightroom
Finally, once we’ve gotten all the elements we like painted into our frame, the next step is to save this file back into Lightroom and then do any final touches we may want in there. You can effectively and entirely reprocess the image making it a bit brighter, darker, warmer, or cooler.
So that’s it, but here’s the fun with these advanced lighting techniques. Typically most photographers will walk into a scene and shoot it with the ambient light available, this isn’t a bad thing, and the shot can still look great, but when you take these advanced lighting techniques, and come back to your clients with an image like we’ve creative in the video (or the before/after below), it’s a stand-out image. For clients that appreciate dramatic images, having these types of images and skill-sets to create them in your toolkit, makes you stand out from everyone else who is just shooting the same, basic walk-up shot.
The Final Image (Before & After)
Stay tuned for our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next Friday!
If you enjoyed this tutorial and would like to learn more on and off-camera flash techniques, check out our Flash Photography Training System!